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Scottish trade hails reopening but raises concerns for the future

Published:  04 August, 2021

The hospitality sector has welcomed news that Scotland will be easing Covid-19 restrictions from next week but has called for more clarity on the details.

The First Minister Nicola Sturgeon revealed yesterday that there would be a relaxing of restrictions on Monday 9 August. 

This includes the removal of physical distancing and limits on gatherings but some protective measures remain including the use of face coverings indoors and the collection of contact details for test and trace. Adults will also no longer be automatically required to self-isolate for 10 days.

The news comes after the industry urged the Government to end the restrictions and the one metre social distancing rule.

Previously, Scottish trade associations expressed disappointment and concern over the delay in easing restrictions, which they claimed could cause more business failures and hardship for the sector.

Trade association UK Hospitality said the latest easing of restrictions marked a “hugely important moment” for hospitality businesses across Scotland.

“Some of our businesses can, at long last, reopen their doors and welcome back customers. Many more can begin to look at increasing capacity with the end of physical distancing,” said UKHospitality Scotland executive director Leon Thompson.

“However, it is not clear yet how the mandatory wearing of face coverings might continue to impact on venues where customers are likely to be standing, including in pubs and nightclubs. Businesses need more detail, along with a complete set of guidance from the Scottish Government – and they need it quickly.”

The trade association also called on the Scottish Government to continue to engage with the sector on issues such as proposals for a vaccine passport.

“Similarly, the Scottish Government needs to work with us to identify ways to build the resilience of the sector. After almost 18 months of closure and restricted opening, businesses are carrying unprecedented amounts of short-term debt – much of it due for payment now. After coming this far these viable businesses must not be allowed to fall at the last hurdle,” he said.

The Scottish Beer & Pub Association (SBPA) also welcomed move, which it said would mean that over 200 pubs, which had remained closed due to restrictions, would now be able to open their doors to customers again.

It also issued a note of caution and warned that there was a ‘range of pressing challenges’ still impacting the sector and that Government support would be crucial in the recovery phase.

CEO of the SBPA, Emma McClarkin, said: “This is the confirmation that so many in our sector have been desperate to hear. It is fantastic news for our pubs, which have suffered more than most sectors over the last 15 months.

She added: “It is estimated that Scotland has lost 285 pubs for good since the start of the pandemic and hundreds more remaining at risk, with a need to reduce the tax and regulatory burden that they face.”

Scottish Licensed Trade Association managing director Colin Wilkinson said he would be seeking clarification on a number of issues such as customers standing and drinking at the bar.

“We are particularly relieved that physical distancing restrictions can be dropped as the one metre rule made trading very difficult for some premises, particularly smaller ones. Premises can now get back to operating at maximum capacity,” he said.

“However, while we understand why the Scottish Government wants to keep some mitigation measures in place, including the mandatory wearing of face coverings in some public spaces and a need for hospitality and indoor venues to continue to collect customer’s contact details, we hope that this is a short-term requirement.

News that the night-time industry can reopen will “come as a relief” for operators who have been unable to trade since March 2020, he added.